So the rumors were true.
Billed as part of a "band" called the M+Ms, Britney Spears gave her first musical performance in what seems like forever Tuesday night at the House of Blues in San Diego.
Actually, Spears has only been lying low, recording star-wise, since swapping vows with Kevin Federline in 2004. But considering all that she—and her fans—have been through since then, her expected return to the stage has understandably been a hot topic.
Sporting a white miniskirt (and, as far as anyone saw, underwear) and a pink bra top—the better to maximize her recently re-toned physique, and a brown wig—the better to minimize her recent rash behavior, Spears played a five-song set that lasted nearly 15 minutes, kicking off her comeback where it all began, with a lip-synced rendition of "...Baby One More Time."
The audience, many of whom had snatched up tickets earlier in the day after hearing the rumor that M+Ms equaled Spears (as reported Tuesday in E! Online's Awful Truth), welcomed the freshly rehabbed "Toxic" singer back to the fold with open arms. Tickets with a face value of $35 were going for as much as $125 on the Internet.
"Thanks, everyone, for coming," Spears told the crowd before exiting stage left. Security guards ringed the stage to hold back the fans.
The singer encountered a minor detour on the way to the show Tuesday afternoon, when the California Highway Patrol pulled over her tour bus on I-5 southbound after other motorists complained that the paparazzi vehicles in hot pursuit were creating a dangerous situation.
Proving the worried drivers' point, some 30 to 35 snap-happy photographers also immediately swerved to the shoulder to document the responding officer's conversation with Spears' bus driver.
After a brief discussion, the bus was allowed to continue on its way, flanked by police escorts to discourage paparazzi from employing aggressive driving tactics in their quest to photograph Spears through the vehicle's tinted windows.
Since the traffic stop was seemingly the only debacle to mar Tuesday's technically non-publicized show, it's likely that the other dates on Spears' unofficial mini-tour are a go—she's due to hit the House of Blues in Anaheim on Wednesday, followed by the club chain's West Hollywood outlet on Thursday and then the Las Vegas House of Blues at Mandalay Bay on Sunday.
Plans for a quickie show last week at the Hollywood club Forty Deuce reportedly fell through at the last minute.
"If she's able to translate the arena show into a creatively and artistically driven club show I think it will put her back in the light as an artist, as opposed to being a tabloid staple," Jeff Rabhan, a partner at entertainment management and branding company Three Ring Projects, told Reuters. "She's one hit record away from being right back where she was."
While Spears, 25, did say upon taking up with K-Fed that she wanted to take some time out to "just chill," the Louisiana native, who has sold more than 60 million records worldwide, ended up putting a little too much out there in the short-lived reality series Britney & Kevin: Chaotic and then had two babies in two years, making her a near-permanent fixture in the tabloids, not Billboard.
Accusations that she was an unfit mom, rumors that her marriage was on the rocks and nasty sniping about the baby weight she didn't seem to be shedding kept Spears out of the positive spotlight for much of the past three years. Except for a guest spot on Will & Grace in 2006, her public appearances were largely limited to parties and TV interviews.
Pleasing some and disappointing others, Spears filed for divorce in November. Amid promises of a comeback, however, the multiplatinum-selling artist took a detour to step out with pals such as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, party hard, sporadically forget to put on panties, shave her head and then check into rehab when it all got to be too much.
Since leaving Malibu's Promises treatment facility in March, Spears and Federline have finalized the terms of their divorce (undisclosed settlement) and the ex-wife and mother of two appears to finally be serious about picking up where she left off, aiming to release her fifth studio album later this year.
Spears' last studio album was 2003's In the Zone and her last major concert tour, cut short when she injured her knee, was in the summer of 2004.